St Mary's: a picture of the Church

I had just arrived in Swaziland from the Vicariate of Ingwavuma (South Africa) as "apostolic administrator" after the death of Bishop L. N. Ndlovu OSM (27 August 2012) when members of the St Mary's parish council (Lobamba) asked for an appointment with the bishop. They would be available to come to the bishop's office in Manzini any time. I told them I would prefer to go myself to their parish as, being new in the diocese, I did not know where it was. 

We then met one evening during the week. Among other things they said: "Bishop, we would like to build a new church as the one we have is not big enough and was built as a temporary structure. We have some plans for you to see...". Those decisions are never easy when one is only an administrator because the consequence of that decision would then fall on the new bishop. 

Still, a "go-ahead" was given and a building committee was set up. The project was first led by Fr Chris Maseko and later by Fr Ncamiso Vilakati.

The three church buildings
On the feast of John Paul II (22 October) the new building was consecrated. Lots of memories in our hearts: meetings, sod cutting, raffles, fundraising events... The joy of seeing the building going up and the times when things seemed not to be moving forward.

While the diocese committed herself to support the project, it was the enthusiasm of the people that made it possible. For this reason, Saturday 22 October saw a church packed to capacity with people standing outside. There was great joy in everyone. The priests of the diocese had asked for the consecration of the church to be done on a Saturday so that they could be part of the celebration.

First building on the left... the new one on the right
At the end of Mass Fr Ncamiso Vilakati explained some particular architectural elements to be noticed:

  • Tabernacle: as a sign of continuity of the church of St Mary's since October 1952, the Tabernacle from the small church (in blue in the photo above) has been moved to this new one;
  • Chair: with the shape of an elephant, symbolizes Mary as "Mother of the Church". It is an inculturation sign adapted from the Coat-of-arms of the Kingdom of Eswatini;
  • Crucifix: locally made by "Flea Artworks" symbolizes the place where the church is;
  • Bishop's chasuble: given to the bishop during the World Youth Day in Poland (2016), reminds us of the youthfulness of the St Mary's Mission in its missionary zeal;
  • Wings: an elderly corner and a cry room, a sign of concern for the small ones, vulnerable and widows
  • Interior: in blue color which is the colour of Mary


St Mary's might be the only place in our diocese where we now have three buildings standing next to each other. For this reason, it becomes a "picture" of who we are and who we will always want to be: a community that keeps on growing. "Hope you are already thinking on how to enlarge this in the future" I said during the homily. We should never think this is now enough.

At the end of the Mass Fr Ncamiso Vilakati (parish priest) presented a slide show of the most important moments of this journey. He also helped everyone understand that St Mary's is more than a church or a building. It is a parish with six outstations. Some of their structures need to be done again. That is why his slide show finished with the photo of a mud church and the words: "the journey continues..."

Click below
for some photos of the celebration (Flickr)


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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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